The Stars at Midnight

Kason strolled down the street he had chosen, looking at the buildings on either side as he went. They were much like ones in the town at the other end of the wormhole which he had passed through on the way to college with the old man Tristian. The majority of them had white coloured walls, although some were a ruddy brown or a bright green, and even though he couldn’t see the roofs, he guessed that they would be covered in the same gelatinous substance instead of tiles. As he walked along, he noted that there were more two-story houses here than he had noticed in that town. ‘But,’ he thought, smiling ruefully as he thought about the junior dorm building back at the college, ‘Just because they look like their two stories, doesn’t mean they actually are’.

Kason walked along the same road for a few minutes before he arrived at what he could only assume was the main road. It was much wider than the road he had been on before and seemed to slightly bowl like, in that the neatly lined cobbles in the middle of the road seemed to be noticeably lower than the two edges. There were also quite a few people hurrying up and down the road, some on foot, while others drifted above their heads in small craft covered with glowing magical designs. The whole scene was rather noisy, the sharp taps of boots on stone and combining with the voices of those engaging in conversation as they walked, producing an atmosphere of bustle Kason thought should only belong to main roads or busy stores.

After checking his palm to make sure that it was indeed the main road, Kason turned to his left and began to walk, gazing at the name printed each building he passed. He spotted The Stars at Midnight after having walked along the road for a few minutes and stopped outside for a moment to consider whether or not to get the necklace done now. He entered the shop a few moments later having decided that ordering the necklace now would be a good idea so he could go in search of the lumber shop while it was being made.

Inside, the shop was quite large and also dusty. There was a wooden counter running along the wall opposite the door made of some expensive looking wood and gilded in places with gold. Display cases were dotted around the room and hugging the walls were a multitude of cabinets, all holding various stands upon which were hung various ornaments and items of jewellery. Kason looked around, taking in the gemstones and precious metals that sparkled in the light of the sun crystals embedded in the ceiling which also created small glimmering spots now and then as it reflected off small motes of dust floating in the air. He let out a sigh of admiration at the sight and couldn’t help thinking that the scene resembled the starry sky just as the name suggested.

The shop itself was almost empty, with only two people inside apart from himself. One was an old man who was standing behind the counter gazing intently through some sort of eyepiece at something held in a cloth in one of his hands. He had a small amount of grey stubble on his chin and long, messy hair of the same colour that fell over a face full of lines that looked as though it spent most of its time smiling. The other was a tall man in a faded dark green cloak who was wandering around the shop admiring the items on display, although his face was mostly hidden by the hood of his cloak, Kason could still make out the end of what seemed to be a rather pointed nose.

Kason wound his way through the display cabinets, his footsteps sounding noticeably loud in the quite. He walked up to the counter to the place where the old man stood and waited. The old man looked up and removed the eyepiece from his eye, he looked down at Kason, whose head only just made it above the counter.

“Hello young man,” He said cheerfully, his face breaking out into a smile, “What are you here for?”

“I- I would like to get a necklace made.” Kason said shakily, feeling quite nervous.

“Oh…” The old man said, still smiling, “Do you have anything specific you want putting on it? Any particular gems?”

Kason blanked out for a short moment, having almost forgotten about the black stone. He felt his heart jump momentarily into his throat as he fumbled around in his clothes, wondering whether he actually had remembered to bring it. Then, with a small sigh of relief, he located the pocket where he had left it, took it out and placed it on the counter.

“I was wondering if I could get this put on?” Kason said more confidently, his nerves having been slightly calmed by the old man’s friendly smiling face.

“Most certainly, young man!” The old man exclaimed, picking up the stone with the cloth in his hand and looking at it through the eyepiece which he had put on again. “But this is a quite a remarkable stone, a totally unblemished surface like this is very rare in natural materials. Where did you find it? If you don’t mind me asking.”

Kason told the old man how he had found it in his shoe while wandering around the college. The old man let out a light breath of surprise, “Just wandering around the college, eh? Most peculiar isn’t it. So, you’re a student are you?” Kason nodded. “Here’s a bit of advice, if you’re shopping around here in Constantin, showing your pendant will usually get you a discount at most shops.” The old man said kindly, “So if you could show me your pendant just to confirm…”

Kason brought out his blue pendant from beneath his top and presented it to the old man. The old man nodded and then went back to looking at the rock, muttering words like, “Extraordinary!” under his breath every so often. After looking at it through the eyepiece for a short while longer, he looked up and seemed to stare into thin air above Kason’s head for a few seconds before glancing back down at Kason.

“You’ll have to wait a little while for this to be done young man,” the old man said, “I’ve got a few other orders that need finishing before I can get onto this one, you see. It shouldn’t be more than an hour though, so you could go and look around Constantin in that time. I imagine you haven’t had much time to look around, given how the college is.” He then went into thought for a moment, one hand absentmindedly stroking the stubble on his chin. “I might not be at the counter when you get back so if I’m not, just ask whoever is if they can call Castor, that’s me.” He said and was about to turn away when Kason spoke up.

“Umm, what about payment?”

“Oh, we say that you only pay for what you get so you’ll pay when you come and collect the necklace. That being said, I almost forgot, how do you want this stone put in the necklace?”

They spoke for a few more minutes finalising the details for the design and then Castor left via a door behind the counter to carry on with his work. After he left, Kason turned away from the counter and began to make his way slowly towards the exit, looking at the various pieces of jewellery in the display cases around him. The man in the cloak was still in the shop, he was standing at the other end of the counter from where Kason had been, examining a particularly magnificent looking golden bracelet.

Kason exited the shop and stood for a moment just outside it, looking at the people and vehicles rushing on, and indeed, above the main street. He then rubbed his ring again to bring up the map on his palm and checked to see if it showed the lumber shop that Fenston had said was around the jewellery shop. He had, however, forgotten that the map did not show the names of buildings, only roads, and so he set out back in the direction he had been going before he went into the shop, bemoaning the fact that he had forgotten to ask Castor if he knew of the lumber shop’s whereabouts.

He walked past a small side street and on down the main road, keeping an eye on the buildings he passed. After walking for about five minutes, he realised that he had probably gone past the area which could reasonably be called ‘nearby’ The Stars at Midnight. He hadn’t seen anything that looked like it could be a lumber shop and so he managed to navigate a route through the crowded road to the other side and began walking back the way he had come, this time surveying the shops on the other side of the road.

He spent perhaps half an hour searching for the lumber shop and even after that amount of time, he had still found nothing. He had wandered up and down the same stretch of road three times and was beginning to feel nervous. It didn’t really matter if he didn’t find the lumber shop today he reminded himself as he stood at the side of the road, subconsciously biting the fingernail of one finger.

He was just trying to work up the courage to ask one of the many passers-by if they knew where they lumber shop was when he heard a voice call out to him.

“Excuse me. Are you ok?”

Kason turned on the spot and saw a young woman with long green hair standing a few paces away, looking at him inquisitively. Kason’s eyes widened slightly when he saw her, it was the woman who had been with the green haired and eyed botanist in the incident just before college began properly. She was wearing a pale green dress and white leggings instead of the college’s uniform along with a thin headband to keep her hair from covering her face. Kason couldn’t help thinking that she looked quite pretty.

The woman obviously recognised Kason as well as she let out a small gasp of shock when he turned. “You’re one of the ones that got caught up in the incident a while ago right?” She asked.

Kason nodded and she smiled, “I am terribly sorry for that again.” She said and gave a shallow bow, “Anyway, is there something bothering you? You look worried.” She looked at him with a concerned look on her face, a portion of her green fringe falling out of her headband and over her face, covering one of her brown eyes.

“Ah, yeah. I’m trying to find a lumber shop which I was told was around here but I can’t find it.” Kason stammered, feeling considerably self-conscious all of a sudden.

The young woman thought for a short moment, then clapped her hands together in a moment of realisation. “I think I know where there is a lumber shop around here, if you don’t mind I could lead you there.”

“Ah, but don’t you have anything you need to do? It’s okay if you just tell me the directions.” Kason said quickly, not wanting to inconvenience her.

“No, it’s fine.” She said and smiled warmly, “I just came out for a change of scenery, I didn’t have anything particular I wanted to do.”

“Oh, okay then. If you’re sure.” Kason replied.

The young lady, who Kason found out was called Ledia, led Kason back along the road, passed The Stars at Midnight and down a little side street he had passed by multiple times but never gone down. They walked down it for a short while before taking another turning which lead into a small walkway only wide enough for about three people to down walk side by side. They walked a couple of paces down this path before coming to a door in the wall on their left above which hung a sign upon which was an image of a grand oak tree.

Ledia told Kason that this was the lumber shop. Kason stood outside and examined it for a moment before he went inside, and as he did, he realised that they were, in fact, more or less right behind The Stars at Midnight at the moment. He sighed in his heart, feeling a bit annoyed with himself that the place he had been looking for was so close to the jewellery shop that if he had just looked down the side street he would probably have noticed it.

He entered the shop with Ledia following him and walked up to the counter. There was a muscular, black-haired man standing behind it who looked up when they entered and called out a greeting to them. They left the shop a few minutes later, Kason having gotten his hands on the lumber he needed. He walked out of the door, looking curiously at the little blue gem that lay in his palm, the man at the counter had said that the wood he had purchased was in this gem but had failed to explain how Kason was supposed to get it out.

Once they were both out of the shop, Kason turned to Ledia, “How do I work this thing?” he asked, showing her the blue gem.

“You just need to manipulate the ether in it in a specific way to release the spatial lock on the gem which will release the stuff kept inside,” Ledia explained.

“But, umm, I can’t…” Kason mumbled feeling slightly embarrassed.

Ledia smiled down at him, “Don’t worry, you can just find someone like supervisor Rayleth or your teacher to do it.”

Kason nodded, feeling relieved, then looked at the ring on his hand to check the time. He realised that the time the old man Castor had said he would have the necklace ready by was approaching so he thanked Ledia for her help and went off back to the jewellery shop.

— Note —
Just read how I described the main road in this chapter and feel I didn’t really get the message across well enough. In this world, the ‘roads’ in big cities are more like big pedestrian paths. People can walk on the ground more or less wherever they like, and the vehicles fly above them, following the road except in the air. Vehicles that travel on the ground are prohibited except for special circumstances.



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